Visual Arts

Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm – Earl Nightingale


Starting out as a new teacher I loved teaching art. I still do, very much so. When it came to the Visual Arts strand I was very much focused on following the strand units that needed to be covered and finding original and fun ways to bring art alive in my classroom. Each lesson was new and had to be integrated in some way with the theme of the week, fortnight or month.

This in itself was a task and a half. I was inspired by my fellow teachers displays and how uniform they were. Twenty plus student’s colourful and carefully created pieces of art, almost identical in every way, displayed creatively for all to see and admire.

There you have it, my first rookie mistake.

Yes, at times if we are focusing on directed art then of course the art is supposed to look similar, however if I were to give a lesson on Creative Writing and the children gave me identical pieces of work, I would not approve. So why should I approve identical work when it comes to art?

Screenshot 2016-05-08 13.20.38

 Art, as we all know and appreciate, is an expression of an individual creativity. Individuality is something I strongly promote in my classroom. I make a point of reassuring the children in my class that it is perfectly fine for your work to be different. In fact, I love it! Changing the lines and colour to their own personal preference is inspiring and shows me that they are making the work their own. This is my approach to 90% of my art lessons. The 10% left over is saved for directed art.

The Importance of Planning


When you start planning your for your Visual Art strand, approach it like all the rest. Focusing on your children’s skill set, what has been taught, what needs to be introduced and what might need re-visiting. After all, practice makes progress. Just because you have already given a lesson on drawing, clay or watercolour painting does not mean that you are now finished with that strand unit and therefor it’s done. On the contrary, you have only just begun.


Just like literacy, numeracy and all the other strands, repetition and practice makes for great progress. We plan carefully and strategically, differentiating where needs be, ensuring that the children’s objectives are clear and achievable.

you can do it

Art needs to be planned with the same care. Aim to direct them in the best possible way, that suits their own abilities and that allows them to enjoy art. Focus on their strengths and their weaknesses. Some will be better at construction than others, so change up the seating arrangement if needs be.

Create a mixed abilities group that will aid those who find it more of a challenge. Children love to help one another. Don’t be afraid to bring in pair work or group work to the mix. Working creatively as part of a team is just as important as working creatively independently. I like to revisit different skills taught but in a new direction.

Here is an example of painting, only this time, I introduced blow painting.


The children were divided into four groups of four for this lesson. Their materials were set out and we looked at an example on the whiteboard.

Rather than showing them what to do, I asked them to think of a way to achieve something similar using the tools they were provided with. They came up with very interesting ideas.

Only one group thought of using the straw. After introducing the idea of using air to blow the paint in the direction they want the hair to go, they were very excited to begin.


This clear film saves my tables every time! Easy to use and re-use.


Some opted for the easier approach 🙂


Some showed patience 🙂


Some opted for the less is more 🙂

Optical Illusion

 Our topic for the next 4 weeks is called Sensational. There is a lot to choose from where strand units are concerned, that will incorporate their senses. We wanted to try something new instead of opting for the typical finger painting or printing. After a bit of research we came across optical illusion art, and chose it for one of our lessons which will focus on sight rather than touch. Optical illusion art it quite simple and easy for the children to learn and create. Here is an example of some of our optical illusion pieces we created using the directed art method.

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 You could try something like a minimatisse , a 3D hand or a 3D Ladder

Drawing Skills

I was surprised by one of the statements made in my course. The question was “How do I teach my kids to draw?” Which was then followed by the response “you don’t, you just try to teach the children to actively look and observe.” This threw me as I personally believe that yes of course you can teach them how to draw. You can teach the children about lines and shapes and making them their own. Guide them the best way you can and then you can let them to begin their looking and responding task.

This is something I stand by, advice and information I received from my mother who has almost 20 years experience in the classroom. She reminded me that children believe that when they draw a picture, the finished product should look like a professional artists work.


This was very much an eye opener for me as I, like so many others, would display pictures as a guidance tool that were drawn by adults. It’s an unrealistic and unachievable objective for my five and six year olds. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t realized this, something that is now an obvious reality to me. Taking this new found knowledge on board my approach has now changed, whereby I either search for children’s examples or, create an example of my own, one that is achievable and suitable for their age group.


When it comes to our skills where drawing and sketching is concerned, most children are subject to the “just try your best” response when their artwork is not going in the direction they had hoped for. Determined to find a way to improve my classes drawing skills and aid them to the best of my own abilities, I went in search of an answer and voila, I came across a wonderful website called artforkidshub.


This website is child friendly, and although the artist is a professional, his tutorials are created with his son, giving us the realistic idea of what the children’s objectives are. His step – by step approach using familiar and simple shapes and lines is fantastic! You can either watch the videos and recreate the lesson in your class or play the original videos in your class setting. All depends on your school policies, and I highly recommend that you follow them to the letter.


Fortunately for me, my school allows us to use these videos as visual aids. It’s great, as the children feel connected to the other child drawing on the big screen. My kids absolutely love him and so do I. He focuses on simple direction that allows the children to access the endless possibilities of their drawings. They cannot believe the end result of their work and are excited for more. It gives them the confidence they need to go beyond their own expectations and progress that little bit further when they are given a look and response piece. They are progressing as an artist in their own right.

Here are some examples of our directed art lesson based on Halloween. Pretty impressive for five year olds, don’t you think 🙂

 You can find the tutorial here.

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And so you have it, my two cents for the day. Hope it has given you some new ideas for your art lessons.

Happy Teaching 🙂

Muinteoir Amy


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